andrew kruse-ross | divas | nov. 2018
Imagine the Goddess of Pop, the Queen of Motown and the Smoky Mountain Nightingale all performing under one roof. Now imagine this show emceed by the late Joan Rivers. Impossible right? Well, almost … unless we're talking about the Divas.
Divas In A Man's World brings the world's best celebrity and female impersonators together for an unforgettable entertainment experience. This show brings Cher (Steven Andrade) Diana Ross (Crystal Woods), Dolly Parton (Sandy Vee Anderson) and emcee Joan Rivers (Gary Dee) to the stages of Northeastern Wisconsin with stops in Green Bay, Manitowoc and Menasha and it does so just in time for deer season.
One of Atlantic City's longest running shows, Divas In A Man's World represents the pinnacle of female and character impersonation.
“I think what sets this show apart is that all the impersonators are the best of the best at what they do," says producer and artistic director Steven Andrade.
There is perhaps no achievement an impersonator can hope to aspire than to meet the approval of the celebrity being impersonated and that's where a Divas show is different.
“We're the only group of impersonators that have worked with the real celebrities that we impersonate; that's never been done before in a show like this," says Andrade.
The impersonation business has taken Andrade across the globe and had him up close and personal with the Goddess of Pop herself. In 2013, he was hired to perform in front of Cher during a record release show and later to pull a practical joke on Cher's press reporters.
Not bad for someone that once said they'd never dress up as a woman.
Andrade's path to impersonation is an interesting one.
Years ago, while attending art school, a friend began hosting impersonator nights at a local nightclub. Andrade insists he had no interest in taking the stage as a woman but at the insistence of friends, he caved.
“Everyone said, 'With your cheekbones and your eyes, you'd look really beautiful as a woman' and I was like, 'I will never do that.'"
Some months later, Andrade was ready to put his best Alanis Morissette impersonation to task.
“I had my friend that worked at Temple theatre department in Philadelphia do my makeup and dress me all up and the first thing that somebody said to me was 'Oh my God, you look so much like Cher.'"
A local club owner caught Andrade's performance and made sure it wouldn't be his last dressed up as a woman.
“He said, 'I'll pay you $100 an hour to stand outside my club and wave people in,'" recalls Andrade, who began dressing as Cher for the part.
“Very soon after a producer in Las Vegas found me and asked me if I wanted to be in a show in Aruba and that's how it all really started for me."
Andrade spent several years in Aruba, performing six days a week inside a casino. Eventually, he decided to hang up the entertainer lifestyle and settled into a more traditional career working as an account executive in sales and marketing. But his days in a dress weren't over.
“I was in a suit and tie everyday for years and then the economy crashed in 2008."
Andrade lost his job and struggled to find work.
“I had no idea what I was going to do," says Andrade. “I didn't have any backup plans. … The one thing I did have was Cher."
Returning to the role of impersonator, he set to work creating a few costumes and went live on the internet and was immediately cast in a show in Lake Tahoe, Calif.
When that gig came to an end, Andrade decided he could produce his own impersonator show and do so better than anyone else had before. In 2009, at the prestigious Hollywood Casino in Monterrey, Mexico, Divas In A Man's World was born. Soon the show went to venues both domestically and internationally, before landing in Atlantic City, becoming one of that city's longest running shows.
The show has evolved over time, growing more elaborate and visually stunning with each successive year. The current show incorporates visual special effects, choreography set to hit music from the '60s to the present, and lots and lots of wardrobe changes.
“The first time I did the show I thought I was going to go insane," admits Andrade. “But now, the show is like 10 times what it was prior."
Anyone that caught the show when it toured Wisconsin in 2017 is in for an expanded, “bigger" experience in 2018.
“We wanted to put in a lot of new content for this show including new videos and more importantly, new costumes into the show."
According to Andrade, nearly 75 costume changes take place during the current production – roughly a dozen of those feature his own re-creations of Cher's amazing Bob Mackie designs. Each re-creation is made to exacting detail and can take Andrade up to a month to duplicate.
“This show isn't just about celebrities," says Andrade. “It's a fashion show. I know audiences really appreciate the time and energy that I take to do a costume."
Some of those costumes have nearly as much personality as the celebrities they were created for, but Andrade insists that despite her larger-than-life public persona and certified diva status, when he's worked with Cher, she couldn't be more human.
“She's just a beautiful person on the inside and out," says Andrade. “She couldn't have been any sweeter or more kind."
While most of us here in Northeast Wisconsin might not get a chance to meet the music industry's reigning monarchs, we will get a chance to witness the next best thing.
More information at DivasInAMansWorld.com. Divas is recommended for audiences 18+.
Divas In A Man's World:
Nov. 14 @ Meyer Theatre, Green Bay (tickets at ticketstaronline.com)
Nov. 16 @ Capitol Civic Centre, Manitowoc (tickets at cccshows.org)
Nov. 17 @ Waverly Beach, Menasha (tickets at eventbrite.com)
Nov. 18 @ Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee (tickets at pabsttheater.org)
Nov. 19 @ Grand Theatre, Wausau (tickets at grandtheater.org)